Neanderthals were NOT a sub-species of modern humans

Researchers claim Neanderthals were NOT a sub-species of modern humans


Researchers have identified new evidence supporting the growing belief that Neanderthals were a distinct species separate from modern humans (Homo sapiens), and not a subspecies of modern humans. The study also found that the Neanderthal nasal complex was not adaptively inferior to that of modern humans, and that the Neanderthals' extinction was likely due to competition from modern humans and not an inability of the Neanderthal nose to process a colder and drier climate, as has been previously suggested.

Samuel Márquez, PhD, associate professor and co-discipline director of gross anatomy in SUNY Downstate's Department of Cell Biology, and his team of specialists published their findings on the Neanderthal nasal complex in the November issue of The Anatomical Record .

They argue that studies of the Neanderthal nose, which have spanned over a century and a half, have been approaching this anatomical enigma from the wrong perspective. Previous work has compared Neanderthal nasal dimensions to modern human populations such as the Inuit and modern Europeans, whose nasal complexes are adapted to cold and temperate climates.

However, the current study joins a growing body of evidence that the upper respiratory tracts of this extinct group functioned via a different set of rules as a result of a separate evolutionary history and overall cranial bauplan (bodyplan), resulting in a mosaic of features not found among any population of Homo sapiens. Thus Dr. Márquez and his team of paleoanthropologists, comparative anatomists, and an otolaryngologist have contributed to the understanding of two of the most controversial topics in paleoanthropology -- were Neanderthals a different species from modern humans and which aspects of their cranial morphology evolved as adaptations to cold stress.

"The strategy was to have a comprehensive examination of the nasal region of diverse modern human population groups and then compare the data with the fossil evidence. We used traditional morphometrics, geometric morphometric methodology based on 3D coordinate data, and CT imaging," Dr. Márquez explained.

Neanderthal skull discovered in 1908 at La Chapelle-aux-Saints

Neanderthal skull discovered in 1908 at La Chapelle-aux-Saints ( Wikipedia). The new study found distinctive differences between the Neanderthal and Homo sapiens nasal complex.

Co-author William Lawson, MD, DDS, vice-chair and the Eugen Grabscheid research professor of otolaryngology and director of the Paleorhinology Laboratory of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, notes that the external nasal aperture of the Neanderthals approximates some modern human populations but that their midfacial prognathism (protrusion of the midface) is startlingly different. That difference is one of a number of traits suggesting an evolutionary development distinct from that of modern humans. Dr. Lawson's conclusion is predicated upon nearly four decades of clinical practice, in which he has seen over 7,000 patients representing a rich diversity of human nasal anatomy.

Jeffrey T. Laitman, co-author and Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine and director of the Center for Anatomy and Functional Morphology states that this article is a significant contribution to the question of Neanderthal cold adaptation in the nasal region.

"The strength of this new research lies in its taking the totality of the Neanderthal nasal complex into account, rather than looking at a single feature. By looking at the complete morphological pattern, we can conclude that Neanderthals are our close relatives, but they are not us," said Dr. Laitman.

Ian Tattersall, PhD, emeritus curator of the Division of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History, an expert on Neanderthal anatomy and functional morphology who did not participate in this study, stated, "Márquez and colleagues have carried out a most provocative and intriguing investigation of a very significant complex in the Neanderthal skull that has all too frequently been overlooked." Dr. Tattersall hopes that "with luck, this research will stimulate future research demonstrating once and for all that Homo neanderthalensis deserves a distinctive identity of its own."

Featured image: Wax model of a Neanderthal. Credit: Erich Ferdinand / flickr


SUNY Downstate Medical Center. "Were Neanderthals a sub-species of modern humans? New research says no." ScienceDaily. 18 November 2014.

Journal Reference :

Samuel Márquez, Anthony S. Pagano, Eric Delson, William Lawson, Jeffrey T. Laitman.  The Nasal Complex of Neanderthals: An Entry Portal to their Place in Human Ancestry . The Anatomical Record, 2014; 297 (11): 2121 DOI: 10.1002/ar.23040

By April Hollowa


GOLDLIONS, dr Bryan Sykes, who made this study, is solely working with mt DNA. When hybridisation between different hominids have now been proven, then clearly the mt DNA sequence is totally insufficient for any such conclusions. If a complete sequensing of the nu DNA of Zana, Kwit ( one of her sons) and all known grandchildren have been made, then it would have been possible to say something at all about her heritage except for the fact that the mathernal heritage was human and subSaharan.

From what have been told about her apperence, she seemed to have been something else than just human. Of her son Kwit, there is even photos, and he also didn´t look totally human. If it would have been established through the nu DNA that she indeed was a hybrid of some sort, then one would also have been able to say, that the male progenitor would have to have been other than human. So in such a case, at some point, a male non human bred with a female human, willingly or not.

To Peron,
Appreciated your reply and opinion/s regarding my comments. Rest assured was only hoping to explain why I made the comment/s I had regarding why it was speculated how it was more likely that the offspring of male Neanderthal/female H. Sapient unions may had survived whether it was by rape or two willing parties. Made that assumption based soley by what mtDNA exists in modern peoples today.

If you want an interesting read I'd suggest reading about the life of Zana, which was formerly known as a sub human "Almas" untill many years later DNA testing on the remains of a few of her offspring, all which proved to be fully human. Zana herself was 100% sub Saharan African.

BTW, If you ever stop at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History you might want to check out a real dolphin brain there on display, makes a human brain look like a chimp's in size yet they are not more intellegent than H. Sapiens.
You're right concerning it's how the brain is wired, and specialized for what fuctional purpose, that's the real key.
Best to you and yours on this thread.

Roberto Peron's picture

I think to assert that it was more likely H. sapien males raped Neandertal females is extreme.  In fact, it is more likely that Neandertals knew their species was dying out so they likely inbred, willingly, with H. sapiens as a means to carry on their lineage although then tempered with H. sapien blood.  In terms of brain volume ,the average size of a  modern human (H. sapien) brain is about 1500 cc although some recent research has claimed the modern human brain is shrinking and now averages about 1350 cc.  It's estimated Neandertal brain volume was about 1600 cc.  Not really a huge amount of difference between the two species but if we assume intelligence has to do with bigger brains then we must also assume Neandertals may have been slightly more intelligent than modern humans.  Following this line of thinking bottlenose dolphins have a brain volume of between 1500 and 1700 meaning their brains are about the size of our own or slightly bigger.  So if we believe bigger brains mean more intelligence then we must conclude dolphins are more intelligent that modern humans as well. 

Thankfully, this theory that bigger brains mean more intelligence is being questioned by many Paleoanthropologists today as we know that there is much more than brain size when it come to intelligence.  Most of the brain is used to control and regulate bodily functions.  We can also use the EQ (Encephalization Quotient) as an indicator of intelligence as well as other indicators.  I still maintain that intelligence has more to do with how the brain is "wired" than anything else including size. 

The Neandertal Genome Project was founded in 2006 to sequence Neandertal mtDNA and results were published in 2010 by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.  Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is only passed on to offspring through their mothers.  In this case the results showed that all non-sub Saharan peoples have anywhere from 2% to 4% Neandertal genes.  This led many sicentists to conclude that Neandertals did not die out and go extinct but that they inbred with H. sapiens as a way to carry on their lineage and ensure the continuation of their species although compromised a bit.

Of course the question is just how did this inbreeding occur?  Was it voluntary between the two species or was it by force (rape)?  Likely BOTH scenarios are true.  In some cases, yes, Neandertal women may have been forced to have sex with H. sapiens, but I think it more frequent that the relationships were mutual and consenting.  In FACT, we don't really know!  We theorize and we speculate and we make inferences and generalized assumptions but when it comes down to it we just don't really know for sure and that is why the theories of ancient human ancestors are always changing.  Nothing in Anthroplogy is set in concrete!  So in this respect the comment made by RWTH HUNT above is partially correct.  But let us not assume that all breeding between Neandertals and H. sapiens was rape.  And I'm sure Neandertal males had relations with H. sapien females as well and, yes, some of those encounters were likely forced sex but not all.  

I will close by saying that I appreciate the comments made above by RWTH HUNT as the question of rape between Neandertals and H. sapiens has been brought up before and often times, sadly, it seems to be a subject that no one wants to talk about or discuss.  Yet, if we don't talk about things then how are we to solve the mysteries of our origins and history?  We all claim we want to know the truth about our origins but we will never come to know that truth for as long as we stick the taboo in that dirty old dark closet and avoid discussing it.  And if we want to REALLY know the truth about our origins then we must have an intelligent discussion and not an emotional one.  







rbflooringinstall's picture

I think there is much more about Neandertals that we could learn in our books and documents and all that from the past. I'm sure Thoth might reference Neandertals in the Emarld Tablets. Maybe Thoth was once a Neadertal. The nasal cavity thing is very interesting, but we should focus more on all our ancient text.

Peace and Love,


I was under the impression that the brain is a muscle and becomes stronger the more it is stimulated. So surly if given the right information and stimulation a slightly smaller brain could become better more efficient than a bigger brain. Also maybe vocalisation was more of a struggle for Neanderthals and passing on and teaching to the next-generation not as easy. I'm sure there were many factors at work and a big brain is not the only one that matters.


Next article